According to the USDA, dandelion greens rank fourth in green leafy vegetables for overall nutritional value. They rank third among the foods richest in vitamin A, surpassed only by cod liver oil and beef liver.
The dandelion is a perennial, herbaceous plant with long, lance-shaped leaves. They're so deeply toothed, they gave the plant its name in Old French: Dent-de-lion means lion's tooth in Old French.
The leaves are 3 to 12" long, and 1/2 to 2-1/2" wide, always growing in a basal rosette. Unlike most other seeds, dandelions can germinate without long periods of dormancy.
Dandelion's are a great natural food that is available most of the year. There are no poisonous look-alikes. Other very similar species, such as chicory and wild lettuce only resemble dandelions in the early spring. All these edibles also exude a white milky sap when injured, but chicory and wild lettuce leaves have some hair, at least on the underside of the midrib.
Greens: Dandelion leaves are at their best when they've just emerged. Collect dandelion leaves in early spring, when they're the tastiest, before the flowers appear. Harvest again in late Autumn. After a frost, their protective bitterness disappears. Dandelions growing in rich, moist soil. The broadest leaves and largest roots, are the best. Select the youngest individuals, and avoid all plants with flowers. Some people eat the greens from spring to Autumn, when they're very bitter. Others boil out the summer bitterness (and water-soluble vitamins) out in two changes of water. It is all a matter of preference. Dandelion greens are wonderful in salads, sautÈed or steamed. They taste like chicory and endive.
Root: The taproot is edible all year, but is best from late Autumn to early spring. Use it as a cooked vegetable, especially in soups. Although not as tasty as many other wild root vegetables, It's not bad. Pre-boiling and changing the water, or long, slow simmering mellows this root. Sweet vegetables best complement dandelion roots. Sauteing the roots in olive oil also improves them, creating a robust flavour.
Flower: The flower heads can be eaten too, a great way is to fritter them with batter.
Health: The leaves are more nutritious than anything you can buy. They're higher in beta-carotene than carrots. The iron and calcium content is phenomenal, greater than spinach. You also get vitamins B-1, B-2, B-5, B-6, B-12, C, E, P, and D, biotin, inositol, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, and zinc. The root contains the sugar inulin.
Medicinal: Dandelions are also good for the bladder, spleen, pancreas, stomach and intestines. It's recommended for stressed-out, internally sluggish, and sedentary people. The leaf's white, milky sap removes warts, moles, pimples, calluses, and sores, and soothes bee stings and blisters.
Cooking with Dandelions:
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